Lapwing chicks: and then there were two . . .

On the subject of irrational likes and dislikes of creatures I’d like to record my changing emotions towards masked lapwings.

Sure, there’s not a lot to like about these birds, known locally as plovers.

Famous for building nest (if you can call them that) in inappropriate locations, a couple of their species decided this Spring to breed on our lawn.

Now every time we open our door we are met by alarming squawks of which there seems to be at least two varieties: The first shorter ones are alerting their young to danger and to immediately take cover. The second are meant for we humans and are unmistakable warnings not to approach.

The lapwings will take to the air and swoop. They are armed with strong bills and also prehistoric spikes on their wings like some throw-back to when they were dinosaurs.

But in their defence I would have to say they are outstandingly good parents (though the chicks probably would disagree because of the incessant nagging to “take cover”).

They split care of the chicks between them. Three for mum and one for dad. The parents never stand together. They are always about 20m apart giving them a broader area over which to detect perceived danger.

One will take to the air if their danger alarms are not heeded and the swooping begins, often the parent manoeuvring to attack with the sun behind. It’s an alarming experience.

Our pair hatched four chicks about three weeks ago. Today’s count is two. My bet is one of our locals cats (feral or neglected) got the first and yesterday probably a forest raven the other.

From Day One the chicks are self-sufficient. Not once have I seen a parent feed a chick, as do other birds for weeks. The cute chicks are out there drilling down into wormholes and slurping down big grubs right from the get go.

But, apart from the full-on parenting skills of their parents, they are sitting ducks, so to speak. Swamp harriers are said to time their arrival on Bruny to coincide with the lapwing chick arrivals and certainly raptor activity is increased at this time.

I must admit that I have become quite attached to these little chicks that are occasionally paraded across the lawn by parents squawking at us as though they own the place. Perhaps they do…

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